My partner in crime this time, and last, was Catherine, an ex-colleague and nonetheless excellent friend who has now retired and moved back to her native Basque country. When she called me out of the blue from Paris instead of Biarritz and asked what I was doing Wednesday and if I’d like to go to the French Opens, for which she had two free tickets, the obvious answer was "Et comment!" (Hell yes!)
As I was underwhelmed by the game, I’ll let Roger speak for himself, as he did in one of his three interviews - in French, in English and in German, Switzerland being a multilingual country. "When you’re the clear favorite, the hardest part may be the press conference afterwards. Because you have to comment on a match where there’s not much to say. (...) And if you’re unfortunate enough to drop a set, like I did today, it’s a big deal. (...) Some of the decisions I made weren’t great ones. But I had a wide margin and I didn’t lose my service, so I’m okay with it." [my translation]
One fun part of the whole experience was that the delightful couple next to us was from Geneva and the couple in front of us from Neuchâtel, plus another guy two rows up with his red Swiss-flag hoodie with SUISSE on the front. How did they know my grandfather was from Switzerland? And why were we all grouped together?
And then something happened. Simon was ahead 5-3 in the third set, but somehow he came apart at the seams. Suddenly he found himself running back and forth, missing shots, hitting long or wide or long and wide. He rallied, but play went into a tie break which Baker won 7/5. Was it hubris that hit Simon? Did he underestimate his adversary, based on what he’d seen so far? Was it the problem the French players have long suffered from: la peur de conclure, the fear of winning?
And excuse me for saying this, but it was a much more interesting game than Federer’s. Especially given that Baker was sidelined for almost six years in 2007 by five surgeries: three on his hip, one on his elbow, and one sports hernia! He didn’t play on the tour again until last year but seems to be trying to make up for lost time. At age 27, he’s still young enough to create problems like this again.